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S.C.: EEOC Sues Employer for Sexually Hostile Workplace

By Susan R. Heylman   3/24/2014
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued TNT Propane Inc., of Rock Hill, S.C., charging that the company subjected a female employee to sexual harassment at the company’s Lancaster, S.C., facility.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from early in 2009 through March 2011, Pamela Wallace was sexually harassed by the company’s owner. The complaint alleges that the company’s owner asked Wallace several times for sex. In addition, he touched her breasts or buttocks on many occasions.  

In March 2011, shortly after an incident where the owner called her into an isolated place at the Lancaster facility, groped her breasts and buttocks, and placed her hand on his crotch, Wallace quit her job.

“Harassment by an owner is particularly egregious because there is no one more senior in a corporation to address the harassment,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers can therefore be automatically liable for sexual harassment perpetrated by an owner of a company.”

After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. (EEOC v. TNT Propane Inc., D.S.C., No. 0:2014-cv-00439-CMC-TER (filed Feb. 19, 2014).) The lawsuit seeks monetary relief, including back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief for Wallace.

The EEOC further alleged that the owner of TNT Propane is also the owner of three affiliated entities named in the lawsuit: T-N-T of York County Inc., TNT Trucking of the Carolinas Inc., and TM Trucking of the Carolinas LLC. According to the EEOC, the companies operate as an integrated business enterprise.

Susan R. Heylman, J.D., is a freelance legal writer and editor based in the Washington, D.C., area.

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